We take a closer look at the venue for the second Test match of the 2013 Ashes, Lord's.
London's history is an often-told tale. First established in 43AD its population rose under the Romans and dwindled on their departure, and it was not until the 12th century that the city was properly established as England's capital. The 14th century's devastating Black Death and the Great Plague of 1665 killed thousands of Londoners, but by the Victorian era numbers in the city had begun an inexorable rise which shows little sign of abating even today: according to the 2011 census, there were 8,174,000 inhabitants of Greater London, making it comfortably the European Union's largest conurbation. From Roman to Saxon, Viking to Norman, London has received many an unwelcome visitor through the ages, but today the city embraces immigrant workers from all parts of the world. Australians are as keen as anyone to visit - in 2011 the capital's 'cobber' community was a cricket squad short of 54,000 - and the familiar 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie' chorus will be out in force again at Lord's and The Oval this summer.
Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of the first game at Lord's - at least in its current incarnation. The ground owes its history and its name to one Thomas Lord, an enterprising 18th century go-getter initially tasked with finding a more central venue for Islington's White Conduit Club cricket side. Lord identified a site on what is now Dorset Square and, in 1787, staged a match there for the first time. So the Marylebone Cricket Club was born, and the new organisation quickly made itself guardian of the laws of cricket - a position it holds to this day. Lord sought to escape rising rent demands by relocating to St John's Wood in 1811, and when the Regent's Canal was routed through the site of the second Lord's three years later the MCC was on the move again. The third Lord's Ground remains home, although its founder's thirst for new opportunity came close to forcing a fourth move in 1825. A stick-in-the-mud reputation often pinned on MCC members has not been reflected in the often bold redevelopments undergone by the 'home of cricket'. The Grade II listed grandeur of the 1890 pavilion sits incongruously alongside the tented canopies of the 1987 Mound Stand and the futuristic marshmallow-shaped media centre, which opened in 1999. Somehow the mish-mash of styles seems to work for even the most conservative spectator. Four further stands are due for a revamp over the next 10 years as the cycle continues, all under the watchful eye of Old Father Time, the famous weather vane donted to the MCC in 1926.
Lord's has built a reputation as a results pitch in recent years after emerging from its record run of six drawn matches between 2006 and 2008. Just one of 10 subsequent Tests has failed to yield a winner, and the arena has traditionally provided help for seam and swing bowling: James Anderson and Stuart Broad are among the English pacemen who comprise the top five Test wicket-takers at headquarters. Spin bowlers are far from redundant - witness Graeme Swann's 31 wickets in nine Lord's appearances - but it is the quicks who tend to flourish or falter on the famous slope. The outfield falls more than two metres from north-west to south-east, across the strip, and some deal better than others with the peculiar demands of approaching the wicket on a slanted surface. Wasim Akram, for example, failed to get on the Lord's honours board despite his 414 Test wickets, whereas Glenn McGrath's three trips to St John's Wood brought 26 victims. McGrath is long gone, of course, and the good news for England is that the current undisputed king of Lord's is among their number: almost a quarter of Broad's 195 Test wickets, 47 in all, have come there.
The home of English cricket has provided precious little comfort for England sides in recent Ashes memory. Take out the 2009 victory, when Andrew Strauss's first-innings hundred and Andrew Flintoff's memorable final-morning marathon with the ball inspired a 115-run success, and you have to venture into thickly-cobwebbed archive territory to find England's last Lord's win. That came in 1934, when left-arm spinner Hedley Verity recorded a career-best 15-104 and briefly stifled Sir Donald Bradman's vintage, although the tourists went on to win the series 2-1. A run of four successive draws in the late '70s and early 80s briefly kept the Aussies at arm's length, but since 1985 St John's Wood has hosted seven Ashes Tests and five have been won by the visitors. Highlights during that time, for Australians at least, include Glenn McGrath's 8-38 in 1997 and Mike Atherton's infamous 1993 run out one short of a century.